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Friday, January 8, 2010

"Candle Man: Book One in the Society of Unrelenting Vigilance" by Glenn Dakin (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

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Introduction: Glenn Dakin has worked on many children's comics and television shows, mainly throughout England. CandleMan is his first novel geared specifically to children readers. The comparisons to a thriller novel with a steampunk flavor that was aimed at a younger reader level got my attention and I wanted to see how Glenn Dakin pulls it off.

Summary: Theo has been forced to live within the confines of Empire Hall. He can never leave his room, or interact with anyone other then the butler, a maid, and his guardian. He has been told his whole life that he suffers from a devastating illness that requires very painful treatments that must be administered every 24 hours or he will die. Theo must also wear special iron gloves at all times and refrain from touching anyone without the gloves, This illness is so powerful that it is what keeps him isolated from the rest of the world.

One day a year Theo is allowed out of Empire Hall for a visit to the local cemetery on his birthday. This year he discovers a secret package addressed to him that is hidden away. It is this package that sets off a chain of events that causes Theo to find out the mystery behind his past and that his "illness" might not be what is appears to be and instead might be gift that can help in the fight of good vs. evil.

Candle Man is a middle grade/YA title, that stands at 304 pages. It has a steampunk flare with a bit of mystery and action packed into it. It is the first of a proposed trilogy known as the Society of Unrelenting Vigilance.

Analysis: Glenn Dakin's debut children's novel, Candle Man has a bit of up and downs that come with his book being his first jump into the YA book market.

The novel started out with so much potential. The description of Empire Hall and the feeling of a dark and misty London was just so strong that it appeared this work had a promising start. Along with the description of where Theo lived, Dakin did an excellent job of drawing a picture for readers to see the type of life that our main character Theo had. The isolation and almost brainwashing of the child really stood out and made readers almost sympathize with Theo.

It was when the first form of action really started that it appeared Candle Man started to hit a few bumps. The first action scene was when robbers come and break into Empire Hall. From that moment on there isn't one moment of calm. The novel goes into a frenzied almost chaotic feeling and any focus on plot or character development almost gets overshadowed. While many books readers wish that the author would speed things up a little, this might be the reverse. I wish Dakin would have slowed things down a tiny bit and allowed character development to happen along the course of the novel.

There are instances of character development, or moments where the characters are building relationships, but it's almost guaranteed that some major event will occur and the characters will be sent running for their lives or chasing down a lead, leaving the reader with a somewhat unsatisfied feeling.

The concept of having this young child with a super power that he has yet to know about mixed with the setting of a steampunk novel was a really great combination. However due to the nonstop action mentioned above at times the further development of areas such as who truly were the bad guys in the novel and what exactly their main goal or reason for being bad were, never fully came to light and seemed to add an element of confusion.

There is a fine line when writing children's or YA novels as everyone wants action and suspense. Glenn Dakin seems to have added a little bit to much of this to his novel and the characters and plot seemed to have gotten overlooked. What could have been a great novel turned into a mixed experience for myself. If Glenn Dakin can tone down the feeling of non-stop action and offer a reader a chance to breath and get comfortable with the plot and characters, this series might have a chance. However, I can't honestly say I'll be rushing to read the second novel, but if I had a gap in my reading I wouldn't be opposed to giving the second novel a shot.


Tanya said...

I agree with your critique of The Candle Man. I read it based on my interest in Steampunk and my love of Shaun the Sheep, which Dakin worked on. I wanted to REALLY like the book but struggled with so much of it. The characters are interesting, the setting is as well, but somehow they don't all fit together. I found the contemporary aspects of the setting jarring and am still not really sure what they brought to the book. Could have been set in the past just fine. Also found being in the dark about everything for most of the book disconcerting. Maybe book 2 will tighten up and be better?

Cindy said...

I think you hit the nail on the head the whole keep the reader in the dark is what did it for me. I know in a series everything isn't going to be explained but I need to have some clue what is going on.

I wouldn't be opposed to trying book 2, I'm willing to give books another try. I guess we'll see :)


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